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Cannabis Research: What the Most Up-to-Date Studies Reveal

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If you have been following our site, then you know we back up all of our claims with independent studies. We take pride in never relying on junk science or company-funded studies. Cannabis research is ever evolving as the medical community evolves in its own testing procedures. We also realize that new studies may conflict with previous findings. This is why we wanted to introduce some recent research from 2018 or the previous year or two.

The History of Medical Cannabis Research

The earliest records of cannabis research date back to the 1840s in France. Doctor and psychiatrist Jacques-Joseph Moreau conducted his own studies on marijuana for medicinal use. He found that cannabis effectively suppressed migraines and promoted sleep.

By the 1850s, Marijuana use spread to the U.S. where it earned a spot in the United States Pharmacopeia. This was the official medical standards for all cataloged medicines.

The first recorded studies using standard testing procedures began in the 1940s. Early experiments1 included both CBD and THC extracts. This was when the medical community first determined THC to be an “excitant” during testing on mice and rabbits. Studies of the day also showed that CBD induced sleep by inhibiting certain enzymic activity.

By the 1960s and 70s, the medical community focused primarily on the psychoactive compounds of THC and less on the therapeutic properties of cannabis.

We could talk about other breakthroughs over the years, such as the discovery of the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the late 80s. This greatly expanded understanding of the central and peripheral nervous systems’ interactions with various cannabidiols.

While these studies are significant and were an important precursor for modern cannabis research, they’re also outdated. The aim of this article is to focus on the latest research using modern procedures and equipment. After all, humans by nature have a difficult time accepting findings from a long bygone era.

Modern Cannabis Research: 2017 – 2018

If you’re still skeptical about cannabis’ many healing properties, consider the following research. These are a collection of studies dating back no earlier than 2017.

The new studies may confirm or contradict previous research. Either way, the former does not override the latter due to their more recent time stamp. Rather, they provide greater feedback as we seek to understand the complex marijuana plant and its interaction with the human body.

Cannabis Fights Various Drug Addictions

In a study2 from March 2018, researchers discovered that CBD use reduced anxiety and impulsive decision making. This finding has huge implications because anxious feelings and impulsive behavior are the two major factors in drug relapse.

An earlier study3 from 2017 suggests CBD may help patients gradually wane off addictive opioids like fentanyl and carfentanyl.

Cannabis Improves Effects of Cancer Treatment

Here’s a study from April 2018 that showed that cannabis may improve cancer survival rate. The findings show that mice that underwent a combination of radiation therapy and cannabis treatment had smaller tumors than mice that had no treatment or radiation therapy only.

While earlier research has yielded similar findings, the studies included cultured cells as test subjects instead of rats or humans.

Cannabis Acts as an Anti-Depressant

About 15 million Americans are diagnosed with major depressive disorder every year, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. This is another area where cannabis may provide an alternative treatment to conventional medication.

In a June 2018 study, CBD use reduced behaviors associated with stress and depression. What’s even more impressive was that the effects kicked in after just a single CBD dose, which persisted for another seven days after administration.

Research shows that CBD increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which keeps depression and mood swings at bay. The study is a significant finding because roughly a third of patients do not respond to traditional forms of treatment for depression. Even when treatment is successful, it often takes weeks for the effects to kick in.

Cannabis Is a Pain Reliever

Cannabis has long been known as a natural pain reliever, especially for alleviating arthritis. There is a lot of cannabis research into the relationship between various cannabidiols and pain relief. A 2017 clinical review4 suggests cannabis may be an alternative when traditional first and second-line treatment fails.

Furthermore, another 2017 study5 also revealed that cannabis may be effective as a form of palliative care. CBD may certainly play a role in providing relief to terminally ill patients as an end-of-life treatment.

In another study6 from the same year, subjects in a self-report revealed that cannabis was just as effective for treating pain as their prescribed pain medication. 97% of subjects indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that cannabis enabled them to reduce the dosage of their opiate medication.

See our post on CBD oil for pain to learn more about the science behind cannabis’ role in pain management.

Cannabis Research Will Continue to Evolve

All the studies we outline represent the latest in the always-evolving field of cannabis research. Even with the latest cutting-edge research, there is much we don’t know about cannabis and its numerous cannabidiol strains. There will be more research in the coming years especially as individual states push for legalization. In the meantime, the current studies and personal experience is enough for the thousands of cannabis users who swear by its effects.

Medical References

Pertwee R. Cannabinoid pharmacology: the first 66 years. Br J Pharmacol. 2006;147(Suppl 1):S163-S171. [PMC]
Gonzalez-Cuevas G, Martin-Fardon R, Kerr T, et al. Unique treatment potential of cannabidiol for the prevention of relapse to drug use: preclinical proof of principle. Neuropsychopharmacology. March 2018. [PubMed]
Lucas P. Rationale for cannabis-based interventions in the opioid overdose crisis. Harm Reduct J. 2017;14:58. [PMC]
Hill K, Palastro M, Johnson B, Ditre J. Cannabis and Pain: A Clinical Review. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):96-104. [PMC]
Häuser W, Fitzcharles M, Radbruch L, Petzke F. Cannabinoids in Pain Management and Palliative Medicine. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017;114(38):627-634. [PubMed]
Reiman A, Welty M, Solomon P. Cannabis as a Substitute for Opioid-Based Pain Medication: Patient Self-Report. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017;2(1):160-166. [PMC]
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Christopher Walker

Christopher Walker has a degree in Neuroscience from Duke University, and is the research writer for The Universal Plant. He has dedicated his life to helping men and women around the world educate themselves and take action to improve their health with natural plant-based and nutrient therapies. Follow him on Instagram @_christopherwalker